Secret Defence Force files reveal hundreds of UFO sightings, details of a top-level government investigative body, and previously unseen reports into the Kaikoura mystery.
More than 2000 pages of formerly classified files were made public yesterday after two years of lobbying by UFO researchers and media. The files include:
Sketches of a "spacecraft" sighted over the Wairau Valley.
Letters from a Wellington mechanical engineer who claimed to have deciphered a tabloid that "detailed a drawing of a machine that is several thousand years old".
300 pages of correspondence from a Christchurch man, with accompanying sketches, detailing his contact with aliens over 20 years.
Defence Force spokesman Commander Phil Bradshaw said yesterday that the number of reports had fallen in the past 10 to 20 years and the Defence Force had "no official interest" in UFOs. "If you look at the reports, obviously some of them are highly questionable, but others are written very genuinely. People definitely see things that are unexplained."
As an engineer, he believed the mathematical probability of extraterrestrial life was high, but "as for little green men", he was less convinced.
The Defence Force collates information relating to UFOs but does not investigate sightings beyond ruling out basic factors, such as whether any aircraft were known to be in the area at the time.
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said people could "make what they will" of the reports, but he believed that "a quick scan of the files indicates that virtually everything has a natural explanation".
Many of the files relate to the Kaikoura sighting of December 1978, when both a Wellington radar team and crew of an Argosy cargo plane reported strange lights and inexplicable radar readings in the Clarence area, near Kaikoura.
Prime minister Sir Rob Muldoon took a special interest in the investigation and "asked [that] he be informed of Defence's conclusions to the study it was undertaking".
According to a Defence Force letter from 1984, Kaikoura was the only UFO sighting fully investigated by the air force.
When sightings continued and worldwide media coverage ensued, the air force said it was forced to investigate.
The Kaikoura investigation failed to pinpoint a single cause of the unexplained lights and radar readings, but concluded almost all the sightings could be explained by factors including unusual atmospheric conditions, lights from a Japanese squid fleet, or a glow from the planet Venus.
Wellington man John Cordy, who was in the air traffic control tower and witnessed the inexplicable radar readings, said the government conclusion sounded "like a Tui advert".
"Unusual atmospheric conditions on a clear starry night? Squid boats doing 180 knots? Venus rocketing around my radar screen? It's a little insulting."
The files also reveal that a government-run unidentified flying object investigating committee existed until the mid-1970s, and included top officials.
It was chaired by the deputy director of Service Intelligence, and its members included a squadron leader from the directorate of Service Intelligence, the director-general of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the head of the Meteorological Service, and the director of the Carter Observatory.
The committee was abolished in 1976 after infrequent meetings, the last of them in 1970. Calling for its disbandment, the Carter Observatory director at the time, WJH Fisher, remarked that "most UFOs are only unidentifiable by the person reporting them".
The defence secretary, JF Robertson, concluded it was "increasingly inappropriate" for his department to oversee investigations into UFO sightings, and the committee was disbanded.
- The Dominion Post
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